Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Cold Prey

2006
Dir. Roar Uthaug

AKA Fritt Vilt

A group of friends on a snowboarding excursion in deepest, darkest Jotunheimen are forced to seek refuge in a seemingly abandoned hotel in when one of them breaks their leg. While exploring the building they discover that the hotel was shut down in the Seventies after a series of mysterious disappearances, including that of the owner’s young son. It soon becomes apparent to the group that they are not alone in the hotel; a mysterious psychopath begins to pick them off, one, by one, by one…

While the premise of this expertly crafted and smartly scripted Norwegian slasher flick seems to creak under the weight of its own cliché-ridden conventions, the execution of Cold Prey/Fritt Vilt (pardon the pun), is what is most surprising and unconventional and sets this film well apart from its myriad of lesser contemporaries. We open in typical slasher style, with the apparent death of a young boy at the hands of an unseen assailant in the midst of a blizzard. Skip forward twenty-odd years to present day and we’re introduced to the main characters as they make their way through startlingly beautiful snow-covered landscapes on a snowboarding expedition. Of course, once they enter the hotel to seek refuge, this is where the slow-building sense of dread and isolation begins to build to an ever pleasing crescendo and events begin to turn increasingly bloody for our gang.


Supremely creepy atmosphere and location aside, Cold Prey also benefits from having a smart script that consistently subverts expectations. Yes, while it knows that we know the rules of slasher movies verbatim, it doesn’t offer knowing, tongue-in-cheek smugness a la Kevin Williamson, instead, it opts to simply sidestep conventions slyly and play up to them before pulling out the proverbial rug, chucking in a few loving references to the likes of The Shining as it goes – without detracting from the story. The script actually credits the audience with a modicum of intelligence and reveals as much as it needs to as it goes along. In lesser films a flashback shot to Jannicke discovering a bullet while rummaging around in some drawers would be inserted into the narrative when she discovers a gun that isn’t loaded…


What Cold Prey also does that is instantly refreshing, is present its audience with a group of well-rounded, likable characters. It benefits the film immensely that this lot actually seem to have a history, and unlike most slasher movie fodder characters, they enjoy each others’ company and don’t spend their time squabbling. Even the various ‘types’ they initially appear to be are almost instantly subverted through dialogue and actions. While all the archetypes are present and correct: the jock, the sensible one, the slut, the horny boyfriend, the joker/comic relief – all of them sidestep pre-conceived notions and, boasted by decent performances courtesy of the very likable cast, become characters we actually care for.


When the group discover they are not alone at the hotel, they do everything they’re supposed to: stick together, try to formulate a reasonable plan, arm themselves and support each other. Of course, this does no good, but at least it’s refreshing to see characters use their heads for something other than decapitation gags in a slasher film. While we are given some basic information about the hotel, its previous inhabitants, bloody history and how the killer is connected to it (remember the pre-credits sequence?) – the screenplay (courtesy of Thomas Moldestad, Roar Uthaug and Martin Sundland) remains chilling in the simplicity of the killer's modus operandi, and rather echoes the terrifying anonymity of Michael Myers in the first Halloween. Consistently cranking up the tension, offering us an imposing, seemingly unstoppable killer and boasting an irresistible, resourceful and courageous final girl in Jannicke (admirably portrayed by Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) – Cold Prey is one of the most compelling, tightly-wound, suspenseful slashers in memory. A shining example of what a great slasher film can be.

3 comments:

Matt-suzaka said...

It's been a while since I have seen this one, but I do remember that it was really good, but it had its problems, one of them being the sparse amount of kills and the lack of impact that they had.

Still, I completely agree with you about the characters and how they are handled, and the setting is fucking incredible.

Also, the killer is one of the best looking slasher villains of the last few decades and certainly up there with the greats as far as appearance goes.

Very good slasher film, and I still hope to check out the sequels which are apparently very solid themselves. Great review, sir!

James said...

What I can't believe is that I've only just discovered these films, Matt! The first one was made in 2006 - how could this be??!! HOW!!!??? I think I made up for lost time though - picked them up (from a bargain bin, no less!) and watched them in quick succession (same night) last week after reading about them and thinking 'hmmm, Norwegian slasher movie, eh? Let me at it!'

I actually like the sparse amount of kills - the impact was still high - if not higher - because of the detailed writing, convincing performances and likeable characters.

There's just SO much about this and its sequel that has CLASSIC SLASHER stamped all over it. Like you pointed out Matt, there's a killer verging on iconic and a Final Girl in Jannicke to die for. Huzzah!

I can't wait to check out Part III - it is a prequel apparently, and opens in its native Norway this month! :o)

Carl Manes said...

I completely forgot about COld Prey, it had been recommended to me about a year ago but I forgot the name. After reading the review you jogged my memory and this is jumping back up on the wishlists!